Sunday, 30 March 2014

Anxious assessments

Yesterday we had our assessment session with Jamie Wright Equestrian for the sponsorship opportunity I blogged about last week. I was slightly nervous as its a big deal for us and I've never been particularly good at riding in front of strangers especially when I'm under pressure! 
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Love this picture!
I made sure we had plenty of time to load (just in case, as it's been a while but the magic from Tarrsteps Services is still working) but Buddy walked straight on. The journey over was uneventful, Buds travels so much better now and was happily munching away on his hay all the way there. We got there with plenty of time to spare so I could get ready nice and calmly and ensure both of us were chilled out. Buds was thoroughly enjoying sunbathing by the lorry and it was lovely to watch Jamie ride whilst we were getting ready.
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Enjoying the sunshine - photo courtesy of Jamie Wright Equestrian
It was soon time to hop on and away we went. After a quick warm up Jamie started to put us through our paces and we started off with keeping the rhythm on a 20m circle and ensuring he was engaging his hind end. We did this on both reins before working on his suppleness - spiralling into a small circle (12-15m), making sure that we kept the same rhythm and impulsion, and then leg yielding out. Buddy's favourite thing is to go sideways, at speed, and I always need to control the outside shoulder to stop him falling out. He got the better of me a couple of times but overall I was really pleased with his attitude.
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Concentrating hard! Photo courtesy of Jamie Wright Equestrian
We then moved on to canter. As you know we have been working on this for such a long time and over the last few weeks things have started to come together but it can still be a bit hit and miss as I have so much to remember to keep myself in the right position and to help Buddy be in the right place. Jamie gave us a couple of handy hints and suggested that we didn't bother sitting into the transition and for me to over exaggerate my turning and leg aids to ensure we struck off on the right leg every time. 

I could not believe it but we had a fantastic, uphill canter first time on the right rein. I had a huge grin, I think Jamie was impressed and Buddy was totally nonchalant and was wondering when we were going to finish. We had three spot on transitions and then moved to our left rein. This has always been our weaker rein but Buddy proved me to be an idiot as he gave me a beautiful transition and then a lovely, balanced canter. Not as uphill as on the right but such a huge improvement. We fluffed up one transition which was totally my fault as I didn't move my outside leg back quick enough but when I sorted myself out it was perfect.
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Uphill donkey - Photo courtesy of Jamie Wright Equestrian
At this point both Buddy and I were rather warm but I was so impressed with my lovely lad. I would so love to continue working with Jamie as his training builds nicely with the foundation we have set but there are some very talented riders (and lovely horses) on the short list so all I can do is hope and wait now. However, regardless of whether we are chosen or not, my amazing horse tried so hard for me and I feel that we are on the verge of something special and nothing can take that feeling away.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Come jump with me...

A couple of us from the yard hired a local arena on Saturday for a jumping session. As you know, the last time we went to that venue it was a bit of a disaster due to the saddle so it was a true, final test of our control.

We warmed up well, focusing on getting Buddy reacting to my aids and concentrating. Lots of on and back within the pace and upwards and downwards transitions. Every time I asked for a change in pace I expected an immediate response and he was really good and was concentrating on me. After popping over a small cross pole a few times it was clear I had my controlled pony back and we moved on to riding the course. I felt that the saddle put me in a much better position and I was able to be more effective over the fences and, when we weren't quite forward enough and had an awkward jump, I was able to recover my position much quicker.

I was really pleased with Buddy, he was rideable and I thoroughly enjoyed the session as he felt so good over the fences. We have things to work on - you'll hear at the beginning of the video that I'm singing nellie the elephant (!) this is an attempt to get me to breathe between my fences as I have a horrible habit of holding my breath when I'm show jumping. Oddly enough I don't do it XC but I have always done it when show jumping so I have to really concentrate on breathing!! I also need to make sure that I am riding forward enough as Buddy can fool me and he is such a large striding horse  so you feel like you are travelling forward but in reality you need just a fraction more. I'm definitely getting better at it but still lose it every now and then.

Headcam video

The overall verdict it is now time to crack on and get out there so we're on the hunt for a nice local venue for our debut!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Exciting news!!

We have had some very exciting news this week as Buddy and I have been shortlisted for a sponsorship package run by Jamie Wright Equestrian who is a local eventer and dressage rider. This is a huge opportunity for us as, if we are lucky enough to be the final pair chosen, it is 6 months of free training and support plus kit from Total Impact Equestrian and physio from LAW Animal Physiotherapy. We have to go to Jamie's yard for an assessment lesson and then should hear early April. I am just hoping that I do my gorgeous boy justice as it is a fantastic offer and would make sure we get our first season under our belts in style.
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Sunbathing after his first bath of 2014
The rest of the week has been spent ensuring that the new saddle fits and trying to find a new dressage saddle. My lovely wow has gone off to a new home in Scotland and I hope the lady who bought it has as many happy hours in the saddle as I did.
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Arty Pic
Buddy is much happier in his new saddle and is already starting to expand into it - I need to stop joking about him being like Valegro as he's going to be a tank if he carries on! We had our third Bowen session this week and Buddy really enjoyed it. We agreed that his topline has improved already and the good news was he was softer all over which was great news. The saddle also got the thumbs up (phew). But the search for a dressage saddle continues....
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Sleepy donkey
I have also (finally) started using my head camera. It's finally dried up enough now that we can have a good canter so I thought I'd share today's effort - see if you can spot the couple of moments where pheasants thought they'd like to join in!!
We're off jumping tomorrow so will be using the headcam again - will upload the video and report on here.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Once you get one thing sorted....

What a change there has been in the weather - Buddy has been out in his fly rug and the ground is drying up - could Spring have sprung?! 

It has been a funny few weeks here which have reminded me that as soon as you get one thing right and you think you have got everything sussed with the ponies, something else always happens to educate you and change your perceptions. A few weeks ago I posted about Buddy being tricky and strong whilst we were jumping and something just didn't feel right but I couldn't put my finger on it. He was booked in for Bowen treatment which I thought would show any weaknesses or tight spots and I was right - they found a few. He was tight in his quads - which I would expect as he is using himself more behind now - but he was also quite sore around his saddle area. Long story cut short is that my wow saddle isn't the right set up for him anymore and unless I spend hundreds of pounds changing the panels and girthing set up (which won't guarantee a perfect fit) its useless for us. So I made the decision to sell it and so it is now advertised in a few places (if you want to know where then let me know and I'll point you in the right direction).

So we've been on the hunt for something that fits and nothing was quite right bar my YO's dressage saddle. Luckily I ordered a couple of saddles from Saddles Direct and one fits us both really well so the saddler is going to check it this week and as long as she gives it the thumbs up we are good to go again. I tried it today over some fences and I had my lovely, sane and rideable pony back so I was racked with guilt as he was trying to tell me something and I should have noticed things weren't totally right before. I should know better than to carry on regardless but, lesson learnt and luckily I've listened and sorted it for him (finally). I am hoping the bowen lady will find him to be freer on our next session.
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Can't everyone do this?!
As well as this I've been working hard on me, strengthening my core and becoming more aware of how I use my body - particularly on the horse. I am hyper-mobile which means that I have a huge range of motion in my joints. What a lucky lady I hear you say - well unfortunately this isn't the case and it means that my body doesn't move in the same way as a 'normal' person. My muscles are weak as I use my bones to move as this is easier so I am having to learn how to engage certain muscles to counteract this. Its been really hard but I am finding it an incredibly interesting exercise and it is making a huge difference to my day to day posture as well as my riding. I am far straighter now but I am also learning to use my pelvis whilst keeping my upper body still which has been eye opening. There is a lot of work still to be done and its baby steps right now but this will make life easier for Buddy and means I won't be crippled by the time I'm 40 (hopefully)!

I am hoping to get out to some local show jumping now Buddy is no longer kamikazing his way around a course so we should have some more exciting pictures soon.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rain, rain go away

The sun is finally shining, the nights are getting lighter and I hear it is going to be a balmy 18 degrees at the weekend. All this can only mean one thing... The event season is finally upon us! It all kicked off last weekend but only one of the scheduled events actually ran due to the ground being too wet or course designers actually unable to get the courses ready. As a result we have pushed our debut back as we haven't been able to get any of the practise in that we have needed. So we now have more time to get ready which is good and should (hopefully) mean that we can be competitive.
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Hacking in the sunshine
I am still continuing with my physio treatment which I have to say has made a dramatic improvement to my riding and Buddy's way of going. I went back last Friday for a follow up and everything is getting stronger but my muscles are also getting tight on my shorter side due to all the adjustments that are being made to my way of going so our last session was focused on loosening these off which was incredibly painful - I have a high pain threshold but had to get her to stop halfway through - but felt a million times better once it was done although I had some cracking bruises to show for it! In-between now and my next session I am just focusing on increasing the strength in my glutes and my range of movement as well as ensuring that I keep straight at all times!
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Our stableselfie
Buddy has also been working hard and is showing a huge improvement as well. As work has been busy and I've been jetting off out of the country and all round the UK my YO has been doing some strengthening work with him during the week and he is finally starting to 'get' what we are asking of him and his canter is rapidly improving. We also had our first jumping session in what seems like ages and the big take away was that Buddy has missed it and secondly that we are super rusty when it comes to riding a course!
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Get off Rubus!
The session was really hard work for me and showed up the weakness in Buddy's canter and when I don't control his shoulders round a turn. I also struggled to control his exuberance (!) and then that turned into a vicious circle with me getting tense because I had no control and then that wound Buddy up more. When I relaxed and let him go he did chill a bit and was more rideable but I still didn't have enough and so we have decided that we will look at his bitting so I can relax knowing that I can check him when necessary and he will actually come back to me!! I hope we will be able to come back to the snaffle once the excitement of being back jumping has reduced a bit ;o)
We're off competing for the first time this year at the weekend so it will be interesting to see what impact our winters training has had on our scores. Hopefully Buddy won't be too wild!